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Earth's dusty neighbor Mars is grappling with its own form of climate change as fluctuating solar radiation is kicking up dust and winds that may be melting the planet's southern polar ice cap, scientists said Wednesday.
NASA scientist Lori Fenton and colleagues, reporting this week in the journal Nature, now believe variations in radiation from the surface of Mars are fueling strong winds that stir up giant dust storms, trapping heat and raising the planet's temperature.
By studying changes in light reflected from the surface of Mars -- a measure known as an object's albedo -- they predict the red planet has warmed by around 1 degree Fahrenheit from the 1970s to the 1990s, which may in part have caused the recent retreat of the southern polar ice cap.